Cheap, processed food has lead to a global obesity pandemic. How did we get into this scenario? Was it a slow change, or a relatively instantaneous shift in our habits?
The answer, it turns out, is a little bit of both. Our jobs mainly consist of a lot of sitting. Unfortunately, sedentary work does not leave a lot of room for play and exercise. We have slowly changed our habits since the 1950s, though the roots of our ill health go back much further than that. To understand why and how our jobs are unhealthy, we need to review a little bit of history.
As Americans became much more comfortable following World War II (emotionally, physically, mentally and economically) we saw a shift in targeting by the media. Due in large part to heavy advertising, we began to consume more processed foods. These once novel foodstuffs became a common staple in our modern world.
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Back To Reality
But let’s get back to the present, and how this grand-scale shift has trickled down to you and your job. It means lots of sitting, and lots of chronic stress. You likely sit at a computer all day, and then spend all night watching a screen (TV, cellphone, laptop) as well.
In short, the sedentary nature of the American workplace intensifies the negative effects of poor quality food, and as a result, makes us sicker. There are ways to fight back, though, and all of them involve self-empowerment. For starters, limit your screen time, and realize the health impact this will have. You will spend less time sitting, snack less, and feel happier. You will also spend more time moving, and lose weight. Pretty good results for such a simple action, no?
1. Read More (and Smarter!)
Educate yourself and be aware of where you’re getting your news from. Don’t believe every tabloid headline, make sure the information you’re reading is coming from legitimate sources, then make a sound opinion. If there’s a strange ingredient on something you want to buy at the grocery store, look it up and find out what it is. Know the actual difference between foods that are organic and not organic (and if that actually matters).
Don’t assume that just because you read something on the internet or your friend told you “all fats are bad for you” that it’s true. (PS: Know the facts about fat.)
It’s also crucial to remember that health is not a “one size fits all” kind of deal. Know your body and find what works for you and what doesn’t.
2. Exercise More
Exercise more, even if this only means walking around your office building at lunch. Daily exercise helps your brain, body and spirit. And it will also help you lose those vanity pounds. You can do it – no matter what bad habits you may have! Start supporting your local farmers, getting high-quality sleep, and realizing that you can make a difference – no matter how hopeless and depressed you can sometimes feel.
When you are at your office, get up every hour (if not more) and walk around. Stretch. Do some squats. This little bit of exercise at your job can make all the difference. And more importantly, it will give you a feeling of self-empowerment and improvement. This feeling of confidence, which is so desperately needed when you have poor health, helps you to find the strength to continually make good decisions.
3. Make Healthy Friends
Find a friend or two to start exercising with. Let them motivate you, and in turn, you can motivate them. Sometimes ill health is a result of social isolation – the end product of poor social decisions. When people incorporate regular physical exercise into their lives, nearly everything improves.
You will be a lot more likely to continually go to the gym and keep the weight off (and muscle on!) when you have other people to help you. We are our habits, and finding others with healthy habits can make all the difference in the world.
4. Put It In Writing
It’s best to start by making a journal entry – think about your previous health, how to improve your current situation, and how exactly you got here. Think about the goals you wish to achieve – do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to get off of medication? Do you want to lose weight? Or do you simply want to feel happier?
Health is a delicate balance, and we now live in a culture of extremes. Only the extremes are reported and focused on. But health isn’t an extreme. It is about making smart, rational, everyday choices.
5. Work Less, Sleep More
Okay, this can be a little tougher than the others to pull off, but it is definitely worth the effort. Americans are working long hours, and putting themselves in overdrive when they are supposed to be home and relaxing. More often than not, we let our jobs take priority over our health – skipping the gym to work overtime, eating fast food for lunch because it’s faster and won’t take as much time as ordering something healthier, etc.
At the end of the day, we want a good career and good health. So reevaluate the “balance” you have struck. Are you happy with it? If not, take steps to improve it.
Putting It All Together
Staying healthy at work just takes a few, easy changes to your routine. Get up and walk around, stretch, do some squats, walk around the building at lunch – there are so many things you can do!
Stand up to unhealthy workplace policies. Make better food choices. Find a workplace friend to hit the gym with. Start healthy office outings like hikes or group runs on the weekend. Prioritize sleep. Get off your phone and digital devices more. The endless workday can be improved vastly by making healthier decisions. Make a list of all the things you can do – and then act on them.
The big corporations, pharmaceutical industries and television executives all get rich from your unhappiness and ill health. But they don’t get rich from the healthier you! Show your support of health by becoming healthier yourself. Actions speak louder than words – make yours count!
(Related: 5 Hacks to Stay Paleo at Home)